Summary: Tips on how to stay healthy and in good physical condition while traveling, and how to avoid sickness and keep your energy high.
Traveling is one of the healthiest things ever when it comes to psychological wellness, but the other side of the coin is that it will seriously challenge your body. Traveling being the opposite of the routine that usually allows you to stay in shape, you will have to constantly adapt to different climates, food and lifestyle.
From our own experience, the bottom line is YES, get your vaccines.
Depending on the countries you’re visiting, you will need to get vaccinated to avoid serious diseases. If you don’t like vaccines, then you should always drink mineral water, pay attention to the food you eat, avoid ice creams and street food as much as possible, use very strong insect repellent and pay extra attention while practicing extreme sports or outdoor activities to avoid injuries.
Traveling is a great opportunity to taste different cuisines and foods, which is a good thing for your body. The difficult part is that you usually don’t know what the tasty dishes that you’re experiencing every day contain. Sometimes they are very fatty, and sometimes very sweet (in some countries it is just unthinkable to have a drink without loads of sugar). The best thing to do is to go for variety and try to eat something different every day. If you travel in tropical countries, it will be easier to have healthy food—especially fruits and vegetables, which you will find in abundance everywhere.
Depending on your age and potential energy, you will be able to do more or less activities. Still, you need to give your body some rest. Jumps from one place to another, jet lag,
changes in climate, long walks to discover new places while carrying your bags, being shattered in uncomfortable transportation, or getting knackered because of outdoor activities, trekking and museum visits—all of this is challenging for your body, so you need to take days off during which you don’t do anything but rest.
Climate is very different from one country to another, and in some cases within the same country (as we’ve experienced in Bolivia). When you protect yourself properly against the climate you have less chance of becoming sick. That’s why you need to have a large variety of clothing types in your backpack. Sleeping bags, sweaters and jackets for the cold and rain, long-sleeved T-shirts and hats for the sun (sunstroke can be very bad). We use long-sleeved swimming clothes as well because snorkeling is the best way to get sunburnt (plus, this also allows you to use less sunblock, which is usually not so good for the environment). Other good things to remember are lip protection for dry climates, good walking shoes and sunglasses.
Don’t try to medicate yourself if you’re sick. When I was in Egypt in the early ’90s, one of the backpackers died in a guesthouse for refusing to see a doctor. You need to trust the local physicians because they are doctors and they have more knowledge than you do (unless you’re a doctor yourself), and they are also familiar with local diseases. When Bassel caught typhoid fever in Bolivia, the hospital was pretty basic, but the doctor was really competent and knew what to do, and Bassel was discharged next day.
Don’t change or give up your dental hygiene routine. It is also easy to have a dental checkup and cleaning on a regular basis abroad, and it is usually cheaper than you
will pay at home.
No matter where you are or how you are traveling, it is important to maintain good health habits. The last thing you want to do is cut your trip short because of a health problem.